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China’s Young Auds Discover Xue Xiaolu’s ‘Finding Mr. Right’

Recent successes as a director are no distraction for screenwriter Xiaolu

Xue Xiaolu is currently hot from the box office success of her hit film “Finding Mr. Right,” which marked her as one of a new generation of Chinese filmmakers who this year have addressed youth audiences in a way that the brand name directors have failed to do in the past.

It pulled in a massive $85.4 million, making it the fourth-biggest Chinese film of 2013 so far and the sixth-biggest to be released in China this year.

But perhaps as important as her commercial success as a director, Xue has become one of the country’s top screenwriters. China’s producers regularly cite lack of screenwriting skills as one of the top problems in the local biz and thousands of youngsters, eager to crack the hot film business, are now seeking a way to fix that.

Xue’s track record includes the script of Chen Kaige’s “Together” to hit TV series “Don’t Respond to Strangers.”

“Finding Mr. Right,” which screens today at a special event at the Directors Guild of America, struck a nerve with China’s newfound theatrical audiences by trading in smart, young-adult romance. It borrows from “Sleepless in Seattle” and its predecessor “An Affair to Remember” in telling a tale that focuses on two damaged souls helping each other heal, and the Chinese title — “Beijing Meets Seattle” — isn’t coy in hiding its cinematic inspirations.

But Xue, who also wrote the script, manages to inject a lot of contemporary China into the story, which features the pregnant mistress of a tycoon packed off to Canada to have the baby in secret. There, she falls for a divorced former doctor who now acts as chauffeur for her mobster sugar daddy. And while shading some nice minor characters and gaining a few laughs along the way, Xue’s screenplay has plenty more digs at self-obsession and rampant materialism in today’s China.

It stands in contrast to her previous film as director, “Ocean Heaven,” in which Jet Li is required to step away from his action persona and carry a drama about a terminally ill man who prepares his autistic son for life without him. The film was clearly close to the heart of Xue, who has for more than a decade done voluntary work with the mental-health charity Sun and Moon.

Xue’s day job is teaching script-writing classes at Beijing Film Academy, from where she graduated before moving to Australia for two years of further study. When she returned to China she made scientific and educational programs for China Central Television while also churning out some 180 episodes of smallscreen drama.

With the success of “Ocean Heaven,” Xue was picked out for international recognition. She was named Emerging Filmmaker of the Year at the 2010 CineAsia tradeshow, drafted as a selector at the 2011 Asia Pacific Screen Awards and given a bursary by the Motion Picture Assn. that took her to Hollywood for further mentoring.

It is unclear whether Xue will disclose her next moves this week or prove to be a mistress of suspense and keep her next project under wraps a little longer.

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